Workers in many industries, particularly in healthcare facilities, perform a variety of lifting tasks that put extreme strain on their bodies. In a nursing home, for example, an employee must often physically support and move residents who are larger and heavier than he or she can bear. As a result, these workers are at high risk for developing job-related injuries. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants have the highest incidence rate of musculoskeletal disorders, two times greater the average rate of all occupations. A recent study showed that healthcare workers sustained 47,840 injuries over a period of a year that required days away from work, the second highest of any occupation. Overexertion was the leading cause or exposure for those injuries.
You can take measures to reduce the physical strain on your employees by practicing and encouraging ergonomics, the science of designing tasks to fit the physical make-up of the workers. Proper lifting equipment, training, and modification of tasks will prevent injuries and reduce workers’ compensation claims.
As a general rule, one full-body lift should be provided for every eight to 10 non-weight bearing residents. The facility should also have one stand-up lift for approximately every eight to 10 partially weight bearing residents.
Both types of machines cost about $3,000 to $6,000, totaling approximately $50,000 per facility. This may seem to be a costly investment, but cost-benefit analysis reveals that the initial investment in lifting equipment and employee training on the machines is recovered in two to three years through reductions in workers’ compensation expenses.
To reduce the risk of employee injuries as a result of patient handling, healthcare facilities should design a safe handling program to include the following:
In addition to establishing a safety program, you should conduct an analysis of the facility to identify any potential hazards. By observing employees as they tend to residents, administering surveys and discussing the issue with employees, you can detect which tasks pose potential dangers. Your facility should also analyze prior recorded injuries to uncover any reoccurring problems.
Beyond these administrative controls, also consider hiring an expert in musculoskeletal disorders to care for injured employees. This person should be responsible for:
As part of your educational programs, provide employees with specific guidelines for lifting residents to ensure that it is done correctly and safely. Some guidelines include:
For more information on reducing work comp claims, contact us.
Risk management and human resources are traditionally two different job functions, and the people in these areas have rarely crossed paths — but that is changing.
Why are these people starting to work together more frequently?
In its 2014 Workplace Safety Index, Liberty Mutual estimated that employers pay just under $1 billion per week to injured employees and their medical care providers. Since even one serious workplace injury may impact the bottom line of a small or mid-size business, it is essential that employers have an effective injury and illness prevention program in place.
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